Caps crush Panthers

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This had all the makings of a blowout, and for one of the few times this season, the Washington Capitals actually followed through and crushed somebody. The Florida Panthers were playing for the second time in as many nights, and the combination of early pressure by the Caps and crappy goaltending by the Panthers led to the Florida players laying down arms pretty quickly in this one.

Well, almost all of the Panthers did. Young Mike Duco decided to “stand up” for Dmitri Kulikov after Alexandre Giroux put a run-of-the-mill clean hit on him behind the Florida net early in the third period. Duco jumped Giroux and starting wailing on him at center ice. He was hit with 27 minutes in penalties, and let’s just say the Caps were a little more motivated to run up the score in what was a 4-0 game.

“Normally I wouldn’t have put [my top players] back out on the power play — I would have rolled [the lines],” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But when they are going to be stupid and I don’t know if that guy just left the bench and nobody else came off.

“To attack Alex like that — it is almost what the game has come to. … Hockey use to be you hit a guy hard and that’s what it is all about. Now you hit a guy hard and you think you have to retaliate on it. It is stupid. It was a dumb thing and it took his team completely out of a chance to win the game.”

Here’s Duco’s rationale for the incident:

“[Giroux] took a couple runs out there [EDITOR’S NOTE: These “runs” are known to most people in the hockey community as “legal hits along the boards”] and I acted suddenly and probably shouldn’t have but that’s part of the game,” Duco said. “If he wants to take liberties on our younger guys people have to stick up for them. I just tried to what I could … I might have done the wrong thing at the time but things happen.”

Well, obviously Boudreau thought it was the wrong thing to do, and it is hard to argue. People are worried (rightfully so) about head shots, but something also needs to be done to get rid of this culture of retalitating after good hits.

A few other things before I pack up:

* Alexander Semin had quite a return with four points. His line with Brooks Laich and Nicklas Backstrom was strong all night. Here’s guessing we might see that line again in the future even when Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble are back in the linuep.

* Semyon Varalmov had another strong game. He didn’t have a ton of work early, but there were a few tricky saves when the game was still in doubt. The Caps might be on the brink of lengthy hot streak if both goalies are going to play this well together.

* David Steckel is still snakebitten. He had a couple more strong chances tonight, but still couldn’t break the ice. Boudreau had him out there a lot on the power play in the third period to try and help him get one, but it wasn’t meant to be.

* All 18 skaters saw time on the power play in this one after the score got out of hand and the Panthers continued to take penalties. 15 of them saw more than a minute — only Matt Bradley, Tyler Sloan and John Erskine were out there for less than 60 seconds of PP time.

* Mike Green probably didn’t need to play 26:25 in a blowout, but more than half of that (13:32) was on the power play, so that number is a little misleading.

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